So we’re at dinner and everyone’s got that rosy champers glow. Plenty of laughter ebbing and swelling. Energy level high. Forecast reads: “giggles with possible dancing”. And then someone asks me what I’m working on, so I tell them:
“Oh it’s this amaaazing story about a multiple homicide in Texas where one of the killers shot an eight year old girl in the face. Apparently when the cop arrived at the scene he looked into the car and could see the sun shining straight through the bloody hole in her head…”
The way the mood dies, it’s like stop motion photography. First a gasp, then some headshaking. Then people set their glasses down and stop chewing, so that we as a table, like a form of grace, can better absorb the full horror of the image.
And there’s no coming back from that. It’s too late for defibrillators. This party is dead. Finito. Or as the Germans say, verschmeckt. Das Boot ist Kerplinkensheit. Schnell schnell! Now, if only the music would stop - a minor earth tremor to jolt the iPod. But no - iTunes “Genius” remains in a disco mood. Midnight Star singing, “I’ve got the Midas Touch, everything I touch turns to gold…”
Or perhaps you heard about the girl who had a one-night thing with a guy, went down on him and ended up with a rash around her mouth, the kind her doctor said you can only get from a corpse.
I first heard the term, “conversational anvil” from Michael Holden, an old friend in London ten years ago. I was dropping them then too. They’re statements that go thunk in the middle of otherwise perfectly pleasant conversations. People don’t know where to look, it goes all awkward and “who invited him?” and “oh is that the time?”
Some people are raconteurs who go through life collecting anecdotes which they keep relatively handy for all manner of occasions. I’m not. I collect stories and then lose them. I leave them in bars and the backs of cars. I’m foggy on the details. So my archive’s a bit limited, a bit random. And when I’m called upon to say stuff, when the heads turn and everyone’s waiting, I tend to just grab whatever’s nearest, whatever I heard recently that happens to be clattering around in my front brain.
Lately, that’s been a lot of anvils. I can’t explain it. There’s the one about the girl who found out that her fiance was cheating on her with her best friend, except it turns out that her best friend was a gay guy who – wait for it – had HIV. Thunk. Try dropping that one between the salad and the main. Or the one about that mayor honcho up in one of them red states who likes to hire girls to ram tuning rods down the ouch end of his Lindon Johnson and then ping them so they hum. Anyone for seconds? Or perhaps you heard about the girl who had a one-night thing with a guy, went down on him and ended up with a rash around her mouth, the kind her doctor said you can only get from a corpse. Thunk. Turns out the guy worked at a mortuary. You can fill in the gaps while I fetch dessert.
There are more but I’ll stop now. All I’m doing is dumping my anvils here so I won’t barf them up the next time I’m in polite company. And there’s no sense in that. Someone told me recently that a blog is like a shop window. Apparently this week, I’m selling anvils. Feel free to share your own.
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